Why do so many couples fight about the same things over and over? What are the obstacles to sending clear emotional signals that allow partners to respond to each other with empathy and compassion? How can partners learn to work together to defeat the common enemy in their relationship, the negative cycle?
In this episode of The Total Self Considered, Jeff Fine interviews Wendy Tomkiel, a certified EFT therapist and supervisor who is also trained in AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy), and ISTDP (Intensive Short Term Dynamic Therapy). Wendy and Jeff breakdown the anatomy of a couple’s fight, by explaining the primal wiring that all humans have, and the ways attachment needs shape our reactions to each other. Through typical examples of negative cycles, they pinpoint how EFT helps couples slow down enough to see their own movements in a cycle, and access more options when they start to fall into old patterns.
Listen to the episode to find out how couples can avoid falling into negative cycles.
Summary of Episode
- What do therapists mean by “distressed couple”?
- Attachment needs and their role in our relationships
- The coping strategies that people develop when attachment needs are not met
- The wiring of human brains – fear center, fight-flight-freeze response
- IN EFT, the main coping mechanisms are described as “withdraw” and “pursue”
- The secondary feeling, or the reaction observed when a couple is fighting vs the root of the issue
- Underneath the reactive emotion is the deeper, softer, more vulnerable primary feeling
- Partners’ reactive emotions impact each other leading to a negative cycle
- The “classic cycle”
- What withdrawers are feeling and doing in a cycle
- Why each partner’s coping strategies make sense
- How EFT helps each person start sharing their vulnerable feelings
- The negative cycle can keep going like an infinity loop
- What does it really mean when someone “doesn’t have feelings” or “doesn’t care”
- Uniting the partners against “the negative cycle”
- What does a secure bond look like vs an insecure bond?
- When partners are secure in their relationship, they are able to experience feelings in the present and not react to it as a life-death situation
- Other cycles couples can fall into: withdraw-withdraw (or burn-out pursuer), pursue-pursue
- People with disorganized attachment styles can have complex cycles
“We as human beings don’t survive in solitary. We need to have connections and we know that in a very primal, deep level, it is hard-wired into our brain.” Wendy Tomkiel
“In this storm that feels so chaotic and overwhelming for both, each person’s coping strategies actually make perfect sense.” Jeff Fine
“What we always know is that there’s more to the story. And if it doesn’t make sense, then we don’t know the whole story.” Wendy Tomkiel
“The negative cycle is very restricting, it’s almost as if they’re stuck in some place where there’s not many options.” Jeff Fine
“Couples who have a secure bond – they fight, all couples fight – but they’re able to repair and come back together and heal the wound together.” Jeff Fine